Station staff at gateline Elstree and Borehamwood station.

Part time workers

Part time workers have legal protections. Find out more here.

Your rights

If you’re a part-time worker, you are protected from being treated worse than full-time workers doing the same or similar jobs with your employer just because you are working part time.

This applies from the first day of your employment, and it doesn’t matter if employed on a permanent contract or a fixed-term contract - you still have rights.

There is no set number of hours that makes someone a part-time worker – it just means someone who works fewer hours than someone in full-time work. If someone is in full-time work, they’ll usually be working at least 35 hours a week. Job sharing, evening or weekend work, and term-time work are all forms of part-time work.

Some of the key areas in which part-time workers should get the same treatment as full-time employees are:

  • Pay rates (including sick pay, expenses, performance-related bonuses, maternity, paternity and adoption leave and pay)
  • Pension opportunities and benefits: Part-time workers have the right to join any occupational pension scheme that is provided by the employer and which is open to comparable full-time workers, unless your employer can objectively justify (see below) not providing you with access
  • Holidays:
    • You’ll be entitled to the same holidays as full-time workers, calculated on a pro-rata basis. Your employer cannot round down the number of days you are given as this would be less favourable treatment, but fractions of days may be given as hours.
    • Bank holidays and public holidays: If you don’t work on Mondays and full-time equivalent workers are not employed on shift patterns, you might be placed at a disadvantage because public holidays and bank holidays usually fall on a Monday, so you’ll get proportionately fewer days off. In such cases, your employer should provide you with additional days off calculated according to the number of hours you work
  • Training and career development
  • Selection for promotion and transfer
  • Opportunities for career breaks
  • Redundancy: It is unlawful for the employer to treat you less favourably because you work part time when selecting people for redundancy. You are also entitled to equal treatment on redundancy pay which will usually be based either on your annual salary or wages.

Are there any situations when an employer can treat a part-time worker differently?

Yes, there are some situations. However, the employer has to be able to show that there’s a good reason for this. This is called ‘objective justification’. This is most likely to apply to the allocation of some benefits which cannot be pro-rated such as healthcare or staff discounts.

You might not agree with your employer that they have an objective justification. There are legal cases where employees have taken their employer to the employment tribunal to contest that their employer has an objective justification for treating them less favourably.

You can find one example here: Mrs Pinaud, a part-time BA employee, found she was meant to be available for work on proportionately more days than a full-time worker. The employment tribunal found that BA’s arguments about why this was objectively justified didn’t hold up and Mrs Pinaud won her case. When BA appealed one part of the ruling, the Court of Appeal found in Mrs Pinaud’s favour again. More than 600 of her colleagues have presented similar claims.

TSSA members

If you think you’re being treated less favourably than your full-time equivalent colleagues, make sure you speak to your union rep. Find out as much information from the other workers as possible and talk to other people with part-time contracts too. If you realise you’re all in the same boat, you can organise collectively to make sure that the situation changes. Remember you’re always more powerful when lots of you are raising your voices together.

TSSA members attending a rally

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0800 328 2673 United Kingdom

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Member advice from our Helpdesk

If you are a TSSA member and are looking for advice or assistance in connection with your employment or membership, you can contact our Members’ Helpdesk.

We can advise on a range of workplace issues including; discipline and grievance hearing, maternity rights and redundancy.

Helpdesk opening hours: 09:00 - 17:00 Monday - Thursday  |  09:00 - 16:00 Friday

Please note: we cannot undertake to provide advice to non-members, to members of other unions, or to members on behalf of their partners/friends. If you are not yet a member, please join TSSA online.